THE Allahabad High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding Editor of the online news portal ‘The Wire’, in connection with an FIR lodged against him in Ayodhya district alleging that he had made “defamatory” tweet against the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
The court, however, said that the petitioner would not leave the country during the currency of trial without prior permission from the concerned trial Court.
FIR had been lodged against Varadarajan under Sections 66D & 67 of Information Technology Act 2000, Sections 188 & 505(2) of IPC, Section 54 of Disaster Management Act 2005 and Section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act 1897. Varadarajan had tweeted:
“On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held. Yogi Adityanath insisted that a large fair planned for Ayodhya on the occasion of Ram Navami from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual while Acharya Paramhans said that Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus’
One day after Modi announced the “curfew-like” national lockdown on March 24, Adityanath violated the official guidelines to take part in a religious ceremony in Ayodhya along with dozens of people.”
This was in response to a report published by “The Wire” on March 31, titled as “Covid-19 Cases Spike in Nizamuddin Nehru Stadium in Delhi to Become Quarantine Centre”. According to the petitioner, the error in the said report was corrected, as soon he knew it and the incorrect version were deleted.
UP government told the High Court “Varadarajan is having an American passport and therefore, there is a chance of him fleeing away from India. It had further contended that since the charge-sheet has been filed by the police after completion of investigation and the cognizance has been taken on the said charge-sheet by the concerned Court, therefore, there is no reasonable apprehension of arrest of the applicant in the instant case by the police”.
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh did not find any merits in these contentions of the UP government who granted anticipatory bail to Siddharth Varadarajan. The court directed that in case the petition is arrested he would be released on bail on his executing a personal bond to the tune of Rs.2,00,000/- (Rupees Two Lakh) with two sureties each in the like amount to the satisfaction of the learned trial Court concerned.
The court also imposed following conditions to be adhered to by the petitioner:
The applicant shall not leave India during the currency of trial without prior permission from the concerned trial Court.
The applicant shall surrender his passport to the concerned trial Court or before this Court forthwith. His passport will remain in custody of the concerned trial Court/with the registry of this Court.
The applicant shall file an undertaking to the effect that he shall not seek any adjournment on the dates fixed for evidence and the witnesses are present in court. In case of default of this condition, it shall be open for the trial court to treat it as abuse of liberty of bail and pass orders in accordance with law to ensure presence of the applicant.
In case, the applicant misuses the liberty of bail, the trial Court concerned may take appropriate action in accordance with law.
The applicant shall remain present, in person, before the trial court on the dates fixed for (i) opening of the case, (ii) framing of charge and (iii) recording of statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. If in the opinion of the trial court default of this condition is deliberate or without sufficient cause, then it shall be open for the trial court to treat such default as abuse of liberty of his bail and proceed against him in accordance with law.